Wednesday 20 February 2019

Sharapova refuses to be drawn on meldonium issue after Barty defeat

When Sharapova (pictured) first revealed the details of her positive test, she said she had used the drug because of a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes. Photo: Reuters
When Sharapova (pictured) first revealed the details of her positive test, she said she had used the drug because of a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes. Photo: Reuters

Simon Briggs

Almost two years since Maria Sharapova returned from her 15-month doping ban, she has yet to regain her former authority on the court, and neither has she shown a hint of remorse.

Both of these points were driven home yesterday. First Sharapova suffered a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Australia's local heroine Ashleigh Barty; then she declined to answer a perfectly relevant question about the challenge of finding an alternative medication to meldonium, which was outlawed by WADA at the start of 2016.

When Sharapova first revealed the details of her positive test, she said she had used the drug because of a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes.

Coincidentally or not, her effectiveness in deciding sets has fallen since she stopped taking it, from a 76pc success rate beforehand to 52pc thereafter.

Asked yesterday whether it is difficult to deal with the physical demands of a grand slam without her former medication, Sharapova put her hand to her forehead, then pursed her lips and replied: "Is there another question?"

The 31-year-old seems to like playing the victim. However, there are plenty of players in the locker room expressing dissatisfaction about her acknowledged use of meldonium for 10 years.

Her notoriety may also help to explain why the Melbourne fans booed her yesterday, as she returned from what they saw as a tactical bathroom break at the end of the second set.

This was another question that cropped up in the interview room, to her obvious disgust.

"Did you think they (the fans) were a bit unfair to you? Did it affect you at all?"

"What do you want me to say to that question?" Sharapova replied. "I think that's a silly question."

Whatever the surrounding issues, the truth is that Sharapova was outplayed. And her opponent thus became the first Australian woman to reach the quarter-finals here since Jelena Dokic a decade ago.

Elsewhere Angelique Kerber bowed out 6-0, 6-2 to Danielle Collins and Simona Halep set up a last-16 tie against Serena Williams by beating her sister Venus 6-2, 6-3. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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